Any safari aficionado worth their salt has heard of the big five, and many will have heard of the little five…but how many are aware that there are an “ugly five” animals of Africa?
Unlike the big five – so called after the biggest trophy animals shot for sport in colonial times – and the little five – simply small animals found on safari that share part of their name with the big five – the ugly five animals are so named because they’re considered the ugliest animals to be found in Africa.
So who are the five members of this most notorious of clubs? Without further ado, the ugly five animals of Africa are the warthog, hyena, wildebeest, vulture and marabou stork.
Ugly Animal #1 – Hyena: Hyenas are primarily nocturnal animals, and a unique and vital component to most African ecosystems. Although long reputed to be cowardly scavengers, hyenas kill as much as 95% of the food they eat. Generally not gregarious animals, hyenas sometimes live in family groups and congregate at kills.
Ugly Animal #2 – Marabou Stork: The marabou stork is a large wading bird that weighs in at up to 9 kg, It lives in both wet and arid African habitats, often near human habitation, especially waste tips. The marabou stork is sometimes called the “Undertaker Bird” because of its shape from behind: cloak-like wings and back, skinny white legs, and sometimes a large white mass of “hair.”
Ugly Animal #3 – Vulture: Vultures are found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Old World vultures found in Africa are scavenging birds, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals which they find by sight. A particular characteristic of many vultures is a bald head, devoid of feathers which helps to keep the head clean when feeding.
Ugly Animal #4 – Wildebeest: The wildebeest (“wild cattle” in Afrikaans) is the most abundant big game species – both in population and biomass – in East Africa. Wildebeest have an average lifespan of 20 years but can live more than 40 years. The wildebeest have a broad muzzle shaped like a lawnmower which helps it with eating short grass, and inhabit the plains and open woodlands of Africa.
Ugly Animal #5 – Warthog: The warthog is a wild member of the pig family that lives in grassland, savanna, and woodland in Sub-Saharan Africa. The name comes from the four large, wart-like protrusions on its head which serve as a fat reserve and are used for defense when males fight.
Any surprises in there, or can you think of an even uglier candidate for the ugly five?